The Houston Rockets have had a rough year. The franchise has tied their record for consecutive losses and could still break it, they traded away possibly the greatest player in their history, and a litany of injuries have derailed any and every attempt to be competitive.
While Christian Wood’s ankle injury was the catalyst for the Rockets’ plunge into the abyss, another injury has only added to the team’s spiral. When David Nwaba suffered a wrist injury in early March it left the Rockets in another quagmire as they balance rebuilding and competing.
This season, Nwaba, in the final year of his deal, has blossomed into a devastating defensive player. According to FiveThirtyEight’s wins above replacement metric, Nwaba has been a top-20 defensive player this season and has been equal to Jimmy Butler on that side of the ball.
If you strip away centers, as their position allows them to accrue the most defensive value, Nwaba’s defensive contributions would place him in the top-five at every other position. Nwaba’s versatility and ability on the defensive end was one of the reasons the Rockets’ defense was so stout to begin the season.
His emergence as a premium perimeter defender has been a bright spot in a dark season and would have made him a valuable trade chip at the deadline if not for his ill-timed injury. The Rockets need to decide if the best course of action is moving him now, risk losing him for nothing when he hits free agency or re-signing him as a core piece of their rebuild.
Next: Why the Rockets should trade Nwaba